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The Faceless Ones

by Terrance Dicks

Book review by Jon Preddle

Terrance Dicks is a strange writer. By that I mean that he has managed to produce some excellent books, e.g. The Auton Invasion, The Abominable Snowmen, and some really lousy ones - Destiny of the Daleks, Arc of Infinity and Kinda, to name a few. Whilst these books are the zenith and nadir of his ability, most of his books lie in the middle, and The Faceless Ones is such a book. I have always liked Dicks' books because he does direct adaptations of the scripts providing an 'accurate' record of the story.

There is little documented about the story (written by David Ellis & Malcolm Hulke), and only two episodes (1 & 3) exist in the BBC Archives. Doctor Who Monthly 71 ran an archive feature on it, and I have noticed a few differences in the story line which makes me wonder whether Dicks used a rehearsal script to write from, as opposed to a final broadcast script.

The story, for those unfamiliar with the plot, concerns a race of faceless beings (caused by a nuclear war on their own dying planet), who kidnap humans from Gatwick Airport, miniaturise them and keep them on board a space station in Earth's orbit. They then duplicate the human features to 'wear' and thus have an identity.

This story sees the departure of companions Ben and Polly (of whom, only four books are available). One continuity gaff stands out a mile: the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to open a locked door! As all fans know (or should), the sonic screwdriver wasn't introduced on television until seven stories later in Fury from the Deep (incidentally, an excellent novel by Victor Pemberton!)

For those who collect the Target range, this is a must. Not only is it a good book from the Second Doctor's era, but also a good book for any 'casual' Doctor Who readers.

Interestingly, the final paragraph leads directly into the next television story, The Evil of the Daleks, so let's hope that that classic story is soon available. The Macra Terror, which precedes The Faceless Ones on television, is due out soon, so fans of the Second Doctor will have a ball...

The cover of The Faceless Ones features the semi-materialised TARDIS on the runway with a jet plane zooming overhead. This is a scene which takes place in the opening minutes of the first episode. For purists, the episode endings are on pages 36, 63, 84, 104, 121, 140. I rate it 8 out of 10.

This item appeared in TSV 2 (September 1987).

Index nodes: The Faceless Ones